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Great Software for Your Sharp Zaurus

Posted January 2004 Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

So you've got yourself a Z, and you want a couple of killer apps. If you're new to the Zaurus or new to Linux, you've come to the right place. Movie players, image viewers, file managers and Net apps are popular, but the Z doesn't ship with particularly strong apps in all of these categories. Here are some apps that should be on a Zaurus owner's short list. Most of the apps are turn key-- just install the .ipk package file and you're set. A few are for the Linux-saavy, and we'll note that. Free apps are generally available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). In addition to the developers' web sites, most of the free apps are also available for download from killefiz.de/zaurus/ and other feeds. If you're interested in games, check out our Zaurus Linux game reviews here.

All the apps listed here will work with the C700, C750, C760 and C860 (C7xx) as well as the SL-5500 and SL-5600 (SL-5xxx) series commonly available in the US market. Note that the C860 is a member of the C7xx family of devices so software for C7xx will run on your C860.

 

Movie Players

tkcVideo by theKompany.com

This is the most versatile commercial video player available for the Zaurus, supporting most of the popular formats. It supports MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MPEG 4, MSMPEG4 V3, H263(+) (aka RealVideo 1.0), Raw video, AVI and MJPEG video formats and MPEG1/2/3 audio encoding. It uses ffmpeg library found at ffmpeg.sf.net. There are separate versions for the C7xx and SL-5xxx series.

Besides supporting many formats, tkcVideo performed very well on our C860 when we threw MPEG1, AVI and MPEG4 files at it which were encoded at an average of 300k bitrate with stereo audio. Movies played smoothly, audio stayed in sync and frame rates looked good to our picky eyeballs. This was true even when playing full screen (movies will scale nicely to fill the screen) on the C860 from a high speed Kingston 256 meg SD card.

The player offers the usual controls for fast foward, rewind, pause, stop, play and so on. On the SL-5xxx series it supports preview mode, which means that video will play in a window as shown in the screen shot. You can also play full screen, of course! On the C7xx series, preview mode isn't supported, so you'll get full screen playback only and the player will close once it's done playing the video. The folks at theKompany are working on remedying these shortcomings.

Ease of Use: theKompany is likely the largest commercial software developer for the Zaurus, and their many apps are easy to install and get running. Totally Newbie Friendly.

Price: $19.95 to $21.95

 


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XScale for C7xx and SL-6500

for SL-5xxx series, A500 & B500

 

Dr. Z Video Player by PalmPalm Technology Inc.

While you won't see mention of Dr. Z Video player on PalmPalm's web site, their player is one of the more popular downloads on Handango and many users claim it's a speed champ.

This player comes in two (really three) flavors: one for ARM processor-based SL-5500s and another for Zaurii with XScale processors (SL-5600, c7xx models). If you install the XScale version on a C7xx series device, you'll get two apps: Dr. Z Video Player and Dr. Z Video Player VGA. Movies that are less than 640 x 480 will not be stretched to full screen on the C7xx series when using the VGA version of the player.

Dr. Z can play MPEG1, MPEG4 and AVI file formats, and uses the ffmpeg's libavcodec library from ffmpeg.sourceforge.net as does tkcVideo. It supports regular and full screen playback, and has the usual controls for playing, pausing, stoping, fast forwarding, rewinding movies. In addition it has controls that let you jump to the previous and next movies in the current directory.

Performance on my C860 was good with no perceived dropped frames or loss of audio/video sync even when playing files from a Kingston high speed SD card. While Dr. Z Video doesn't support as many file formats as tkcVideo, it does support several popular formats and will do the job for most.

Ease of use: No-brainer. Install the package and tap on the Dr. Z Video Player icon to play your movies.

Price: $18.00

 

 

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XScale for C7xx and SL-5600

ARM for SL-5000D and SL-5500

Kino2 by Cacko

The same much-loved folks who bring you the popular Cacko X11 ROM for the Zaurus make Kino2, a GUI version of the command line mplayer application. As with mplayer, it supports most popular video formats: AVI, MPEG4, DIVX, MPEG1, MPEG2, ASF and WMV. Unlike mplayer, you won't have to touch the command line and type out long commands to watch a video burried somewhere on your storage card. If you've already installed the command line version of mplayer, you must uninstall it before installing Kino2 which includes its own optimized version of mplayer.

Kino2 offers basic features and controls: you can fast forward, rewind, play and pause movies (in full screen playback mode you won't have access to these controls, obviously). Kino2 can playback movies scaled or full screen, and offers quite a few settings to tweak playback performance. Not bad for a free player! On the C860 running the stock Sharp ROM, I do get a thin band of video artifacts at the bottom of the screen during full screen playback, but that is located below the movie so doesn't interfere unduly with enjoying the flick. Sound wasn't quite as good compared to tkcVideo and Dr. Z Video.

Ease of use: Install the package, then watch your movies! It supports internal memory and storage cards as do the commercial players reviewed above.

Price: Free, GNU GPL

 

Kino2 screen shot


Text Editors

Nano, free GPL
Download from pathwayjr.com:8001/jpavel/Software/Zaurus/nano, read more about nano at www.nano-editor.org/

Dependancies: requires ncurses 5. (I use ncurses 5.3 from Cacko's web site)

For those of your who are like me: old hands at Linux, but not a big fan of Vi which comes with the Zaurus and pretty much every Unix/Linux system. Nano is very similar to Pico: a capable and user-friendly text editor that you'll run from the command line in a terminal session. It doesn't offer the power of Emacs or Vi (I would love to have a port of Emacs for the Zaurus!) but it will get the job done easily enough when light editing is your goal.

Why do you need a text editor? At some point, you'll discover the need to edit conf files or otherwise twiddle with your system to customize it or set up some neat drivers you've downloaded for such things as CF Bluetooth cards.

Ease of use: just install the package and hunt down a copy of ncurses which also installs easily as a package. Then type nano while in a terminal session to run the app. Even if you've never used Nano or Pico on a Unix/Linux system it's very easy to get going: simply use the command keys indicated at the bottom of the screen to get a task done (hint: the Fn key functions as the Control key on the Zaurus so hit Fn and x to exit. Tthe control key is shown as ^ on Unix systems).

Ease of Use: It's a shell app, not a GUI one so if you've never touched the command line in any OS, this will be a new experience. However, it's really easy to use like many shell apps that have been the backbone of Unix and Linux systems since day one.

Price: Free GNU GPL

 

 

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ZEditor by Satoshi, free GPL

Allergic to the command line? Terminal sessions leave you feeling cold? ZEditor is a free GUI text editor that will keep you safe in the land of the Zaurus' graphical user interface. If you've used Notepad in Windows or Simple Text on the Mac, you'll feel right at home with ZEditor. ZEditor offers more advanced functions and features than do Notepad and Simple Text: you can cut/copy/paste, find, find next, replace, undo, remove line, duplicate, mark, use the keyboard to jump, auto indent, word wrap, do a character count and more.

Ease of use: Download and install the package. You'll see a ZEditor icon in your applications group. It doesn't get easier than this! If you need to edit system files, remember to tap and hold on the ZEditor icon and check the box that allows you to run the app as root (most all Zaurus apps work this way, but you generally don't want to run apps as root).

Price: Free, GNU GPL

 


 

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HTML Editor by Zorian Designs, available for download on Handango (no demo) and on the zaurus.spy.org mirror

This is a handy basic HTML editor that works on all Zaurii and runs full screen on the C7xx series (the freeware HTML@Zaurus doesn't use the full screen). It's a bit confusing that the app is listed on Handango for $4.99 with a commercial license, yet the author has made the source available (parts are GPL, and the rest is LGPL). It's also available for free from Zaurus feed sites. Anyhow, this nifty little app offers syntax highlighting, allows you to have several files open at once, has a preview in Opera function and has a nice popup where you can select from the most common beginning and ending html tags. It will certainly do the trick nicely if you need to quickly update web pages.

Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the icon in the programs group. The app is very intuitive and has no learning curve.

Price: $4.99, Commercial License but source is available.

 

 

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Painting and Graphics

tkcGallery by theKompany.com

Got a digicam and want to view your photos using your trusty Z? tkcGallery will allow you to do just that, and offers very fast image load times for both thumbnails and full screen viewing, even with higher resolution images taken with a 3 megapixel digicam. I really like the the image info feature which provides you with detailed info about the shot such as f-stop, shutter speed, aperture, metering mode, flash setting, resolution, dimensions and more. Not all desktop apps offer image metaInfo, so it's great to see it in a PDA app.

As you'd expect from a full-featured PDA image viewer, tkcGallery can move, copy, rename and delete images as well as rotate them (and remember the rotation settings for a given image). It has a slideshow feature that allows you to specify the delay between images, and you can even specify the thumbnail size in pixels. Quite a full-featured app, and very fast even with large images. Like all apps from theKomany, it's easy to use and very polished.

Ease of Use: Super-simple. Install the package, tap on the app's icon in theKompany program group and start playing. Use the mouse icon on the upper right hand corner to access common functions.

Price: $9.95 to $10.95

 

 

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XScale for C7xx and SL-6500

for SL-5xxx series, A500 & B500

Petite Peinture by Saki Sakira

Graphic artists with a penchant for painting and drawing will love this application. Be sure to read the manual posted on the developer's web site as the interface contains some unique elements. Also check out the pen pressure driver listed there, which allows C7xx series models to respond to pen pressue when drawing— very cool!

Petite Peinture (though the developer is Japanese, the program name is French for "Little Painting") supports BMP, PNG, JPG, and PTPT formats (PTPT is Petite Peinture's own format and that format supports layers). You'll find the usual drawing/painting app tools such as an eraser, pencil, water brush (behaves like a cross between a watercolor and oil brush), cloud brush, color picker, zoom, and layer management. It may not be Photoshop, but it's enough to allow you to create some very nice paintings.

Ease of Use: Installation is a breeze: just install the package and then tap on the Petite Peinture icon in your programs group. The interface is a bit unusual, so spend some time reading the manual and playing around with all the tools and menus.

Price: Free, source also available.


 

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FreeNoteQT, available at www.urban.ne.jp/home/kanemori/zaurus/freenote_e.html

So you're not a budding Vermeer, but you do need to create diagrams, simple flow charts, map directions or simply jot notes to yourself. Check out FreeNoteQT which will allow you to do just that. This versatile app sports some very cool features: it has drawing modes that will let your draw freehand, or it you can use the auto shapes feature to have the app turn your wobbly attempts at drawing squares, triangles, circles and etc. into lovely smooth vector graphics. It can also smooth your curved and straight lines, and supports color and line width. Throw in text support (choose your font, size and color), an eraser, undo and you've got FreeNoteQT. Even better, the app will let you work with very large canvases, and can save in PNG and PDF format.

Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the FreeNote icon in the programs group. Most features are inituitive and the web site has a good walk through of features.

Price: Free, GPL

 


PDF Viewers

qpdf2, available on SourceForge.net

These days, who can live without a PDF viewer? Don't hold your breath waiting for Adobe to release a Zaurus version of Acrobat Reader— instead get a copy of the free qpdf2. It's fast and can handle large (10 meg) PDF with images. It offers many levels of zoom, full screen mode and allows you to jump to first/last/next/previous pages. qpdf@ can rotate the screen on the fly (quickly too), and have it fit the document to the width of your screen. My favorite two features are: 1) you can drag the document around instead of scrolling 2) you can switch between standard PDF view and a text equivalent that allows you to copy and paste text from the PDF file!

Ease of Use: Install the package, then tap on the PDF icon in the programs group. The app is pretty easy to figure out, and the latest version does an ever better job of rendering and presenting the user with zoom options.

Price: Free, GNU GPL

 

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Networking & Internet

Kismet desktop version by KismetWireless, Zaurus version is at http://www.inexistent.com/zaurus/feed/kismet_3.0.1_arm.ipk and the GUI app is at sourceforge.net/projects/kismet-qte/

Linux users will probably be familiar with Kismet, but did you know there's a version for the Zaurus? Kismet is a WiFi site survey and sniffer app that detects access points and reports back detailed info about them. Kismet supports the Prism chipset (the most common WiFi chipset). Note that most CF cards don't support promiscuous mode, so you'll need to create a bogus connection in the Network applet for your WiFi card or activate an existing connection to bring the card up so that Kismet can do its thing. If you go the bogus route, use ANY for the SSID name, and the following for TCP/IP settings:
IP Address: 1.1.1.1
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.255
Gateway: 1.1.1.0

Detailed info From Kismet Wireless:
Kismet is an 802.11 layer2 wireless network detector, sniffer, and intrusion detection system. Kismet will work with any wireless card which support raw monitoring (rfmon) mode, and can sniff 802.11b, 802.11a, and 802.11g traffic. Kismet identifies networks by passively collecting packets and detecting standard named networks, detecting (and given time, decloaking) hidden networks, and infering the presence of nonbeaconing networks via data traffic.

Ease of Use: Install the package. You'll need to tap and hold on the icon to check the "run as root" box. You may have to edit some config files. I got it running pretty easiy on my C860 using the Ambicom WiFi CF card, but some other folks have had troubles getting it running using various Zaurus models and cards. But it's free and a very useful app, so give it a try!

Price: Free, GNU GPL

 

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tkcFTP by theKompany.com

Sure you can FTP using the command line in the terminal application, but this GUI can save you time and is great for those who've been weaned on graphical FTP programs like Fetch and WS FTP on the desktop.

tkcFTP can save multiple server profiles and you'll be able to give each connection a friendly name, set the server name, port, path, user name and password (shown as astericks once you enter it for security purposes). Tap on a saved connection to connect to your server and tkcFTP will log you on and show you a tree list of remote files. You can expand and collapse directory listings and use one of two tree views (simple or detailed, detailed view is shown on the right). Using the mouse icon in the lower right corner, you can sort the files by name, size or date; reverse order and turn on/off display of hidden files. You can select all, none or some files for upload or download and create, delete and rename files and directories.

Ease of Use: Installation is a breeze; install the package, tap on the FTP icon in theKompany program group. Most common commands can be found by tapping on the mouse icon, while one or two icons on the bottom of the screen may be a bit mysterious until you consult the manual.

Price: $9.95

 

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Opera 7.30 with multimodal extensions, browser by Opera but multimodal by IBM and offered by IBM

SL5xxx series machines come with an older version of Opera and the C7xx series machines come with the excellent NetFront web browser. But everyone loves an upgrade and having more choices, so I've included Opera 7.30 in our listings. Opera is not offering this version of their Zaurus browser for download, so don't bother searching their web site. IBM, that Linux loving company, is offering a customized version of the browser for the Zaurus. It's a part of their pervasive computing initiative which focuses on "smart devices" and embedded systems. When you download thier WebSphere Everyplace Multimodal package, you'll get not only Opera 7.30 but IBM's multimodal extensions which enable Opera to say a few words to you and allows you to input voice commands. The software is listed as trial software, but it doesn't seem to expire. The Cacko ROM includes Opera 7 too.

Opera 7 is very fast on my C860 and is definitely worth the 5 megs + of space if you're into web browsing with your Z. It supports multiple windows (you can supress pop-up windows if you wish), resizeable text, grab and move for scrolling along with traditional scrolling, cookies, SSL v2 and 3, javascript, certificates, and voice commands.

Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the Opera icon in the programs group. If Opera launches then closes very quickly, and you see it complaining that it can't find/load some .ini files when you're trying to run it from the command line, you'll need to create a symbolic link from the shell as root. Enter the following to accomplish this:
cd /usr/share (then hit the enter key)
ln -s /opt/QtPalmtop/opera opera (then hit the enter key)
You shouldn't see any error messages. If you do, then you either forgot to login as root by typing su at the terminal prompt first, or you made a typo.

Price: Free. Commercial license.

 

 

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BlueZ Bluetooth Drivers currently maintained by Tumnus, and available at SourceForge.net

While the Zaurus, particularly the most recent models, have strong built-in driver support for most WiFi, wired Ethernet and CF modem cards, Bluetooth is another story. You can indeed use Bluetooth CF cards such as the Socket CF Bluetooth card, the Anycom BT card and the first revision AmbiCom BT card in your Zaurus, but you'll need to get some drivers. Enter BlueZ and some associated GUI apps that will allow you to use these cards to connect to BT phones, access points and more.

I installed BlueZ on my C860, and added a couple of great GUI add-on's that allow you to configure the BT card using the Network applet. These apps add PAN- TCP/IP and Dial-up (Bluetooth) options to the standard list of networking options in the Network applet and allow you to configure your connection using that familiar interface. Here are the apps and where to get them:

The first item is a driver you'll definitely want if you're using the AmbiCom or Pretec cards because it greatly improves throughput. The 2nd is for Anycom cards, but you already figured that out . The other two are the GUI add-ons.

Ease of Use: Get ready to geek around some. Install the packages, then find out your phone's/PC's/access point's MAC address using the Z and BlueZ from the command line, edit some config files as root. Be sure to read tumnus' excellent How-To posted on the ZaurusUserGroup.com site here— You'll save yourself a lot of time and agony. Note that if you're connecting using a PAN connection (e.g.: to a Bluetooth access point or your PC's USB adapter), DHCP isn't supported, so you'll have to enter the appropriate TCP/IP settings in the Network applet for your BT card's connection via PAN. If you're a newbie, this whole process may take you some time, but if you're experienced with networking and/or Linux you should be up and running without hardship. Once you get it all setup, the connections are turnkey and you should have an easy time sufing via your BT enabled mobile phone and more!

Price: Free, GNU GPL

 

 


Security: Password/Credit Card/PIN Mangement

SafeDee by Bundu

Everyone keeps secrets, so why not your Zaurus? SafeDee is just the place to safely store credit card numbers, PIN numbers, web account info, server passwords and anything else you wish to keep safe from others. It uses Blowfish encryption which will keep bad guys and nosy folks out, and is quite flexible. Most password/credit card manager apps allow you to encrypt all or none of your data, while SafeDee lets you choose what you want to encrypt. That feature can save you a bit of time when you need to look something up without entering your password (and how many of us need to encrypt our VCR's serial number, for example, even though you might want to use SafeDee to store such info).

SafeDee comes with several handy pre-defined categories, and you can add new ones, edit existing ones or delete any you don't find useful. Remember to create a password so you can encrypt your data, and do remember your password, because if you forget it, there's no way to get your unencrypted data back. SafeDee can import and export data in CSV format, but remember to enter your password before exporting data because encrypted fields will appear as **** rather than plain text. A very polished and flexible app. I'd be in heaven if there were a desktop counterpart.

Ease of Use: Simple as it gets: install the package, tap on the icon in the programs group and start entering your data and customizing your categories. Do remember to set a password and don't forget what it is!

Price: $14.95, a small price to pay in the interest of keeping sensitive data safe

 

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C7xx and SL-5xxx models

 

Doc & eBook Readers

Just Reader by Dmitri Skachkov, available at justreader.sourceforge.net

It seems everyone loves reading a good eBook. Just Reader is a capable and customizable reader that supports free Palm pdb eBooks, text and HTML files (good offline web page reader). It's highly configurable and allows you to change the font, bolding/italics, justification, margins, indents and more. You can also set up the keyboard navigation and controls to suit yourself. A few of the settings windows are clipped when run in VGA mode on the C7xx series, but you can still get to everything. In addition, Just Reader allows you to create bookmarks, search, view the table of contents and create your own TOC. Very nice! Note that Just Reader can't open encrypted DRM (Digital Rights Management) eBooks purchased from PalmDigitalMedia.com.

Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the Just Reader icon in the programs group. The menu items, controls and settings are all quite intuitive.

Price: Free, GNU GPL

 

 

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Opie Reader by Tim Wentford, www.timwentford.uklinux.net

Opie Reader (also known as QTRreader) is part of the Opie project and supports quite a few document formats: Doc format (AportisDoc format), early non-DRM Palm Reader pdb files, Weasel or ztxt format, Plucker format, gzipped text, ppms text, HTML and plain text. Like Just Reader, it doesn't support encrypted DRM eBooks sold by places such as PalmDigitalMedia.com.

Opie Reader allows you to customize the display and settings. Layout settings include kerning, bold, inverse, full justification, strip CRs, and setting spacing. You can also set the indent, graphics zoom level, leading, margins and change the font. Reader also offfers a great number of encodings, which will ensure that most texts are properly interpreted.

Ease of Use: Install the package, tap on the icon in the programs group and start reading. The settings are clearly presented and easy to grasp.

Price: Free, GPL

 

Opie Reader


*Footnote for Linux Newbies Only:
As noted in some cases throughout this review, you many need to edit config files as the root user. If you're not familiar with Unix and Linux systems, root is the top dog user, and there is no real equivalent on Windows operating systems where even the Administrator can't whack important systems files. The root user can delete an entire file system and has complete control. To do things as root, start a terminal session and type su to become root. Your prompt will change to a #. When you're done with your task, be sure to type exit to end the root terminal session. Also consider finding a copy of sudo, which allows you to issue a single command as root. This way you won't stay logged in as root and do accidental damage to files.

-> Be Sure to Read our Review of Accessories for the Zaurus C7xx & C860!
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